From 14 to 18 August, approximately 200 people gathered expectantly to participate in the Quebec summer school and regional youth camp organized by the Baha’i Institute of Quebec, both held at Camp Papillon, in St-Alphonse-Rodriguez in the Lanaudière region. The coming together of young and not-so-young participants led to moments of strong emotion, an aspect of the summer school that was warmly appreciated.
“It’s brilliant to have so many connections with young people,” explained one of the organizers of the summer school. “We have long had the goal of facilitating communications between generations. This year we succeeded!” In order to accomplish this, the Summer School organizing committee and the Quebec Baha’i Institute worked closely together to plan activities, and much of the program was designed for the youth who presented their work and ideas, and also participated in consultations on various topics.
As National Spiritual Assembly member Élizabeth Wright commented in her closing remarks, the school is an integral part of a dynamic movement taking place everywhere in the world. She said that the surge of enthusiasm seen at the summer school in support of the youth was observed earlier this year at the International and National Conventions, and also, of course, at the youth conferences taking place around the world until October. These 114 conferences called by the Universal House of Justice are part of a coherent process of growth in which all communities are participating.
In its 8 February 2013 message, the Universal House of Justice stated: “To every generation of young believers comes an opportunity to make a contribution to the fortunes of humanity, unique to their time of life. For the present generation, the moment has come to reflect, to commit, to steel themselves for a life of service from which blessing will flow in abundance.” A very important role has been assigned to the youth, but Baha’is and their friends of all ages also participate in this same process of community building. The community has a role to play in assisting the youth to accomplish their goals, and for this reason the theme of the summer school was “United in support of our younger generations.”
One of the participants, originally from Equatorial Guinea and living in Montreal for the last few months, was astonished to see the “integration of the youth, pursuing in a spirit of unity the vision presented by the Universal House of Justice.” He added that “each institution, in its own sphere, contributes to the community-building process and it is rewarding to discuss our experiences in the various regions of the province. I greatly appreciated the galvanizing energy of the youth and it greatly enriched our experience at the summer school.”
The young people who had arrived at Camp Papillon four days before the start of the summer school emphasized the creation of sincere friendships during the camp. One of the animators said that those true friendships helped to create a spirit of joy and respect. This youth from the Sherbrooke area was very happy to gain some experience as an animator at the regional camp organized by the Quebec Baha’i Institute, commenting that he had learned a lot. “We really have to call on our qualities, like patience. We have to let go and remain confident. One of the important qualities we must have is flexibility. As important at it may be to have a plan, it will constantly have to change.”
Many of the young people were there to lead classes for children, an essential aspect of the summer school and an occasion for the younger ones to also make friends. A mother from Victoriaville said that one of the reasons she came to the summer school was so that her “eight year old son [could] participate in the classes and meet other children who have similar choices to make and have the same values,” adding that the school was a place where she came to “acquire new tools to improve the classes for children she holds at home,” and that it was also a beautiful occasion to “reflect on our own spirituality and our life goals.”
The acquisition of knowledge was enhanced by theatrical presentations prepared by several small groups from various regions of Quebec. The program on two afternoons featured a “drama tour,” during which small groups went from one venue to another to watch various presentations on themes that covered stories from the life of d’Abdu’l-Baha, the origins of the Tablet of Ahmad, the sacrifice of Mirza Mihdi, and the life of Mona Mahmudnizhad, an Iranian Baha’i girl who was martyred in 1983.
Participants of all ages enjoyed time at the Camp Papillon beach or on the lake, and could engage in several outdoor activities, including climbing, archery, kayaking, canoeing, and pedal or pontoon boating.
Élizabeth Wright reminded those present that “summer school is an important aspect of Baha’i life.” Those who attended the summer school were able to experience the benefits described by Shoghi Effendi in remarks he addressed in 1938 to young Baha’is attending the Louhelen Baha’i school. He wrote: “Only through such a harmonious combination of these three elements [devotions, study and recreation] can the institution of the Summer School yield the maximum of beneficent results, and fulfill its true function of deepening the knowledge, stimulating the zeal, and fostering the spirit of fellowship among the believers in every Baha’i community.”